DETROIT Jan 11 China's BYD Co (1211.HK) is open
to licensing its low-cost ferrous-iron electric car battery and
has had interest from Japanese, European and U.S. carmakers, its
chairman said on Sunday.
"We would consider it, and many have shown interest in
cooperating in the field," Wang Chuan-Fu, chairman of the Hong
Kong-listed battery maker, told Reuters in an interview on the
sidelines of the Detroit auto show.
"Right now we're just limited by resources."
BYD Auto, set up in 2003 by the BYD Group, has used its
expertise in batteries to develop rechargeable electric vehicles
that it expects to eventually compete with General Motors Corp's
(GM.N) and Toyota Motor Corp's (7203.T) proposed plug-in hybrids.
BYD gained international fame in September thanks to a
surprise endorsement by billionaire investor Warren Buffett, whose
Berkshire Hathaway Inc (BRKa.N), through unit MidAmerican Energy,
agreed to buy a 10 percent stake in BYD for $230 million.
The Chinese automaker is aiming to launch a plug-in hybrid
model, the F6DM, and the E6 all-electric car, in the United States
and Europe in 2011.
Wang said initial sales would include fleet sales to
corporations, utilities and municipal governments.
BYD launched the F3 "Dual-Mode", or F3DM model, last month,
expecting to sell 50 units to the Shenzhen municipal government
and China Construction Bank (0939.HK).
The F3DM, which has a small gasoline engine as a backup power
source, is available in 14 Chinese cities at 149,800 yuan
($22,000). BYD plans to expand sales to the mass market in the
second half of this year.
BYD is also scheduled to launch the E6 -- its first
all-electric car -- in China in the second half of this year.
Both the plug-in hybrid and E6 run on ferrous-iron batteries,
which Wang said were safer, more durable and less than half the
cost of lithium-ion batteries, which most major automakers are
planning to use in their electric vehicles.
The E6, however, requires about 600 kg (1,323 lb) of battery
packs, or roughly twice the weight required by the battery in
Nissan Motor Co's (7201.T) prototype electric car.
While BYD's vehicles have yet to be proven for long-term
durability or safety, Wang said he aimed to sell BYD's cars in the
United States mostly on the innovative battery and dual-mode
hybrid technology rather than on price alone.
Wang also said Buffett's investment could help speed up BYD's
entry into the United States, where he expected the certification
process to take one to two years.
"They could help us in building facilities for charging
stations," he said.
Wang said he would be open to MidAmerican Energy's increasing
its stake in the automaker from the current 10 percent.
He said BYD was discussing electric car projects with various
governments, including that of Israel, as well as regional
authorities in China.
"The Chinese government has been supportive in initiating
incentives on detailed levels, at both the federal and regional
levels," he said.
(Editing by Phil Berlowitz)